Announcement - Valve
The Steam Holiday Sale is here! For the next fourteen days, take advantage of huge saving throughout our store on thousands of games. Check back often to take advantage of our eight-hour Flash Sales. You can even help select what goes on sale with our Community's Choice Voting Sales.

In addition to Flash and Vote sales, more than a hundred games and apps will be featured as Daily Deals throughout the sale, with new deals popping up every 24 hours.

Today's Daily Deals include:


Participating in the 2013 Steam Holiday Sale will also earn customers exclusive Holiday Sale Trading Cards. Collect, trade, and craft 10 Holiday Snow Globe Cards that can only be earned during the sale. Every craft of a Holiday Sale badge will also generate a random item drop from 10 participating Free-To-Play games, featuring exclusive in-game items from Warframe, Path of Exile, Team Fortress 2, DOTA 2 and more. These items are both tradable and marketable.

Learn more about this year's Steam Holiday Sale features at HERE.

The Steam Holiday Sale will run from now until 10AM PST, January 2nd. Complete information on Daily Deals, Flash Sales, Community Choice Voting and more can be found HERE.

Announcement - Valve
The Steam Sale is here! Take advantage of huge savings on thousands of PC, Mac and Linux titles. Check back often to take advantage of our eight-hour Flash Sales.

Today's Daily Deals include:


Add games to your Steam Wishlist and be notified when a game from your Wishlist goes on sale, or shop for games using the Steam Mobile App, available for iOS and Android.

Be sure to check Steam every day to see new featured deals.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

There are a lot of words being written about the new consoles this week but when I spoke to Warren Spector a few days ago, he was clear about where his future lies: “I think all the interesting stuff is happening on PC now… Assuming I make more games, which I intend to do, PC and Mac are going to be my targets.”

It’s good to hear. We spoke at the Bradford Animation Festival and covered a wide range of topics, from his theories of design and pioneering role in PC gaming to thoughts on the current state of the industry. In this first part of our conversation, there’s insight into how Spector see his own legacy and the work of his former colleagues, and how frustrations with Thief’s difficulty inspired the player empowerment of Deus Ex.>

(more…)

PC Gamer
Dishonored


No matter what upcoming plans Dishonored developer Arkane Studios has hidden in a velvet-lined box somewhere, it looks like CryEngine will be a part of it. A recent hiring push by the Austin-based Arkane and Battlecry Studios for artists and programmers to work with the Crytek game engine has surfaced, pointing to a project separate from the Unreal Engine 3-based Dishonored.

Dishonored publisher Bethesda's VP of marketing Pete Hines had already described the first-person stealth action game as a "franchise" back in July, but it's unclear if the CryEngine project is tied to that game or not. Arkane has offices in both Lyon, France as well as Austin and we know from the push for more designers that at the very least the Austin branch has a CryEngine game in mind.

While much depends on the what game artists and designers have in mind, the choice of game engine can influence the look, feel and scope of the final experience, not to mention its development process. Notable current and upcoming games that use CryEngine technology include Star Citizen, MechWarrior Online, and of course, Crysis 3.

Hat tip, IGN.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Path of Shadows is an upcoming non-commercial student project in which the player character can teleport between shadows. As seen in the prototype video below, it resembles an over-the-shoulder Mark of the Ninja, with a protagonist who is wearing a magical glyph version of Isaac Clarke’s RIG read-out. Limiting the teleportation ability to shadowy areas suggests prescribed paths through levels, a puzzler’s approach to stealth. As is often the case, the sneaky protagonist feels compelled to creep through temples, silently murdering guards. A goddess instructs, “do not bother remembering anything”, which sounds exactly like the sort of thing that somebody would say if they’d killed you and taken command of your soul in the recent past so they could make you smash up a rival deity’s temple.

(more…)

Oct 25, 2013
PC Gamer
Nvidia Shield Featured


Everybody knows that if you try to get a cat to do what you want—sit up, fetch a stick, search for explosives—it will do nothing more than stare at you with contempt. That’s why console pitches to PC gamers tend to fall flat: we’re generally not as interested in hearing how a bunch of suits want us to play our games. Nvidia took a much different approach with the Shield, on the other hand, that seems to account for what PC gamers have in common with cats: give us great hardware and the freedom to do whatever we feel like doing, and we’ll show ourselves a great time.

And oh, what hardware! Closed, the Shield looks like a largish Xbox 360 controller, with a handsomely textured plastic chassis and contrasting magnetically-attached silver plate on top (called a “tag”) that can be swapped for glossy or carbon fiber tags (available separately at $20 each). The top flips upward on a firm hinge to expose the 5-inch, 1280x720 glossy LCD touchscreen display and controller surface. The layout of the controller combines the best of the Xbox 360 and PS3 controllers with dual analog thumbsticks, a D-pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, left and right analog triggers and bumpers on the shoulders, as well as five buttons in the center for system controls.



At 1.3 pounds the Shield isn’t lightweight, but the ergonomics are nearly perfect—including a smoothly contoured undercarriage that allows your ring fingers to rest beneath the device—so I was able to play well over an hour before any fatigue set in (and over ten hours on a single battery charge, although that included a half-hour sandwich break and finger yoga). Only the slightly recessed thumbsticks felt a bit awkward at first, but the slight arch in my thumbs necessary to work them actually made depressing them easier.

On the Engineering deck you’ll find the brawniest Android hardware you can fit in a jacket pocket, centered around Nvidia’s own 1.9GHz Tegra 4 processor (with a 5-core CPU and a 72-core GPU) and 2GB RAM. The Shield also includes 802.11n dual band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, an internal gyroscope and accelerometer as well as 16GB of internal flash-based storage and a MicroSD slot where I’m currently storing 32GB of movies, music, emulators, and disc images I ripped from vintage games (more on that in a moment).

But the real stroke of genius is the Shield’s unmolested Android 4.1 (“Jelly Bean”) operating system, by far the most popular mobile operating system in the world. All you have to do is pop open the Shield, hop onto your wireless network, and help yourself to any of the hundreds of thousands of Android games available through the Google Play store. The Shield wisely highlights Android games with controls and visual enhancements customized for the device and its Tegra 4 proc, as not all Android games support game controllers or control remapping, and not all the ones that do aren’t guaranteed to work well with the Shield. And you’ll want to be very wary of games designed specifically for touchscreens: while some are a pleasure, such as the enigmatic puzzle game The Room, there’s simply no way to comfortably play others, such as the Android port of the classic adventure game The Last Express which bizarrely only supports portrait orientation.



The games tailored for the Shield, on the other hand, play beautifully, with super-crisp detail and unflappable smoothness—especially first- and third-person action games such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, zombie abatement shooter Dead Trigger, and Max Payne.

The Shield’s most unique feature—no, make that its most downright bitchin' feature—is PC streaming. You can launch any supported game from your PC—via the Shield interface or Steam’s Big Picture mode—and play, oh, let’s say Dishonored, in the bathtub. Which I did. Or Tomb Raider on the couch. I did that, too. I won’t tell you where I played BioShock Infinite, but the main idea is that your PC does the heavy lifting and squirts the results to your Shield with—under ideal conditions—negligible latency. But Nvidia was right to label this a “beta” feature, because getting it to work is something of an adventure in itself. Non-Steam games need to be manually added to your Steam library in order to work, and the hardware requirements are extremely steep: You need at least an Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 (laptop GPUs aren’t supported yet), and your results will depend on the speed and sophistication of your router and the strength of your wireless signal. I used a $180 Asus RT-N66U provided by Nvidia, and even then, in the labyrinth of dead spots that is my home, it took a great deal of experimentation to figure out where to put it—and how far away I could move away from it—so that I could stream without excessive lag or hiccups.



That’s frustrating, but in a sense, it’s also inspiring. Because PC gamers have always been tinkerers, and we’re used to adapting hardware to our needs; at the very least, we’d rather have the option than not. Nvidia cut no corners on the hardware, so I was able to watch my MKV rip of “The Brothers Bloom” Blu-ray without recoding (using VLC). I played my FLAC files of Tomáš Dvořák’s tasty soundtrack to Machinarium through the superb speakers (which are better than most laptop speakers, though light on the bass). And by pairing the Shield with a Bluetooth keyboard for experimenting with command-line instructions, I was able to play the gruesome DOS classic I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream (with the $3.50 DosBox Turbo utility) from a ripped ISO of my dusty CD-ROM. I plugged in the Shield to my PC, and as it charged over the USB connection, I transferred a rip of The Neverhood through Windows Explorer and ran it on the Shield using the free “Windows, Linux, Unix Emulator” on the Google Play store—and played it on my living room TV via the HDMI-out. I used a PlayStation emulator to play Fear Effect on a warm night on my fire escape. I even surveilled my backyard with the AR.Drone 2.0 from Parrot, with a live color video feed from the hovercraft streamed to my Shield.

That’s not to say these feats were easy—not all of them were. But they’re possible, and don’t require “rooting” or workarounds as a result of file system lockouts. You have the same freedom to improvise and experiment that you expect from your PC or laptop—and don’t ever get from console manufacturers. Instead, you get the benefits of an operating system with an open architecture in a handheld that’s several orders of magnitude more sophisticated in hardware and design than any handheld that came before it.

If you have the desire and patience to exploit the Shield’s whopping potential, it’s a must-have—if you tried to take this thing from me I’d tear your arm off and make you eat it. If you don’t, it’s a tougher sell without reliable PC streaming and iffy compatibility with many Android games. Either way, the Shield is a magnificent funmaker that’s worth every penny, and if Nvidia can bullet-proof the streaming and continues to promote compatibility and support among developers, it has an even more glorious future ahead of it.
Product Release - Valve
Dishonored - Game of the Year Edition is Now Available on Steam.

Experience the definitive Dishonored collection with the Game of the Year Edition. This complete compilation includes Dishonored, winner of over 100 Game of Year awards, as well as all of its additional content - Dunwall City Trials, The Knife of Dunwall, The Brigmore Witches and Void Walker’s Arsenal.

Developed by Arkane Studios, Edge Online’s 2012 Studio of the Year, Dishonored is an immersive first-person action game that casts you as a supernatural assassin driven by revenge. With Dishonored’s flexible combat system, creatively eliminate your targets as you combine the supernatural abilities, weapons and unusual gadgets at your disposal. Pursue your enemies under the cover of darkness or ruthlessly attack them head on with weapons drawn. The outcome of each mission plays out based on the choices you make.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Duncan Harris)

This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.>

Games move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss them. The pretties this week come courtesy not of a particular game, nor indeed me, but of the Dead End Thrills Flickr group, a caravan of some 500+ ‘players’ who spend more time stopping games and looking around than they do actually playing. The times we live in.

With some 11,000 images in there, I wasn’t sure how best to approach this. (Drunk, obviously, but how badly?) I’ve gone for the easy option: a round-up of games and/or users that stood out over the last few weeks. What you’ll often find is that wrangling games into ‘screenshot mode’ has knock-on benefits for any PC gamer, so let’s see if that holds true. (more…)

PC Gamer
15 most brutal mods of all time


Remember when buying a game didn’t feel like a guarantee of seeing the ending? There are still hard games out there, Dark Souls flying the flag most recently, but increasingly, the challenge has dripped out or at least softened, often leading to sadly wasted opportunities. What would Skyrim be like, for instance, if its ice and snow wasn’t simply cosmetic, but actually punished you for going mountain climbing in your underpants?

With a quick mod – Frostfall in this case – you’re forced to dress up warm before facing the elements, and things become much more interesting. That’s just one example, and over the next couple of pages you’ll find plenty more. These aren’t mods that just do something cheap like double your enemy’s hit-points, they’re full rebalances and total conversions. Face their challenge, and they’ll reward you with both a whole new experience and the satisfaction of going above and beyond the call of duty.

Misery
Game: Stalker: Call of Pripyat
Link: ModDB



All those weapons scattered around? Gone. Anomalies? Now more dangerous. Magic mini-map? Forget it. Valuable quest rewards? Good luck. Things you do get: thirsty, and factions who send goons after you if you anger them. On the plus side Pripyat is much more active, with a complete sound overhaul, and new NPCs to meet – who all have to play by the rules too, with no more infinite ammo. If you can survive here, you’ve got a good chance when the actual apocalypse comes.

Project Nevada
Fallout: New Vegas
Link: Nexus Mods



Nevada is a good example of making things more difficult without being openly psychotic. Levelling is slower, players and NPCs get less health, and obvious features are now in, such as armour only being a factor in headshots if the target actually has head protection. It’s also possible to toggle some extra-hardcore options, such as food no longer healing and taking care of hunger/thirst/ sleep on the move. There’s a sack of new content, and an Extra Options mod is also available, offering even more control.

Brutal Doom
Game: Doom
Link: ModDB



Despite what modern ‘old-school’ shooters would have you think, Doom was a relatively sedate experience – fast running speed, yes, but lots of skulking in the dark and going slow. Not any more! Brutal Doom cranks everything up to 11, then yawns and goes right for 25.6. We’re talking extra shrapnel, execution attacks, tougher and faster monsters, metal music, and blood, blood, blood as far as your exploding eyes can see. It’s compatible with just about any level you can throw at it, turning even E1M1 into charnel house devastation. The enemies don’t get it all their own way, as Doomguy now starts with an assault rifle rather than simply a pistol, and a whole arsenal of new guns has been added to the Doom collection – including the BFG’s big brother.



Full Combat Rebalance 2
Game: The Witcher 2
Link: RedKit



This streamlines the combat and makes the action closer to how Geralt’s adventure might have played out in the books. He’s more responsive, can automatically parry incoming attacks, begins with his Witcher skills unlocked, and no longer has to spend most fights rolling around like a circus acrobat. But he’s in a tougher world, with monsters now figuring out counterattacks much faster, enemies balanced based on equipment rather than levels, and experience only gained from quests, not combat. Be warned this is a 1.5GB file, not the megabyte Hotfix that’s claimed.

Requiem
Game: Skyrim
Link: Nexus



Elder Scrolls games get ever more streamlined, and further from the classic RPG experience. Requiem drags Skyrim back, kicking and screaming. The world is no longer levelled for your convenience. Bandits deliver one-hit kills from the start. The undead mock arrows, quietly pointing out their lack of internal organs with a quick bonk to your head. Gods hold back their favour from those who displease them. Most importantly, stamina is now practically a curse. Heavy armour and no training can drain it even if you’re standing still, and running out in battle is Very Bad News. Combine this with Frostfall, and Skyrim finally becomes the cold, unforgiving place it claims to be.

Radious
Total War: Shogun 2
Link: TWCenter



Not only is this one of the most comprehensive mods any Total War game has ever seen, its modular nature makes it easy to pick and choose the changes that work best for the experience you want. Together, the campaign AI is reworked, as are the skills and experience systems, diplomacy and technology trees. There are over 100 new units. Campaigns are also longer, providing more time to play with all this, with easier access to the good stuff early on in the name of variety. There’s even a sound module that adds oomph to rifles. Add everything, or only the bits you want. It’s as much of a tactical decision as anything else on the road to conquering Japan.

Game of Thrones
Game: Crusader Kings II
Link: ModDB



Real history doesn’t have enough bite for you? Recast the whole thing with Starks, Lannisters, Freys and the rest and it will. This doesn’t simply swap a few names around, but works with the engine to recreate specific scenarios in the war for the Iron Throne. Individual characters’ traits are pushed into the foreground, especially when duels break out. Wildlings care little about who your daddy was. It’s best to know a fair amount about the world before jumping in, and the scenarios themselves contain spoilers, but you’re absolutely not restricted to just following the story laid down in the books.



Realistic Weapons
Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Link: GTAGarage



Guess what this one does. A bowling league for Roman? Cars that drive themselves? A character who appears to tell Niko “You have $30,000 in your pocket, you don’t need to goon for assholes” after Act 2? No, of course not. These guns put a little reality back into the cartoon that is GTA. The missions weren’t written with that in mind, obviously, but there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a shot. Worst case: murdering random civilians on the street is much quicker, easier and more satisfying. At least until the cops show up to spoil the fun. Range, accuracy, damage, ammo and fire rate are all covered, though be warned that you shouldn’t expect perfect accuracy from your upgraded hardware. This is GTA after all. Realism is not baked into its combat engine.

The Long War
Game: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Link: NexusMods



You’re looking at eight soldier classes, many more missions, invaders as focused on upgrades as your own science team, and a much longer path to victory. Research is slow, not least to make early weapon upgrades more useful, while the aliens are constantly getting more powerful. Their ships are better, their terror missions are more regular, and more of them show up for battle. In exchange, you get to field more Interceptors, the council is easier to appease, and the ETs don’t cheat as much.

Ziggy's Mod
Game: Far Cry 3
Link: NexusMods



Ziggy makes Rook Island a more natural place, removing mission requirements for skills, cutting some of the easier ways to earn XP, increasing spawn rates to make the island busier, and throwing away the magic mini-map in favour of a compass. The second island is also unlocked from the start. Smaller changes include randomised ammo from dropped weapons, being able to climb hills that you should realistically be able to, and wingsuit abilities made available earlier to get more out of them.

Terrafirmacraft
Game: Minecraft
Link: Terrafirmacraft



Minecraft has a Survival mode, but it’s not desperately challenging. Terrafirmacraft takes it seriously, with hunger and thirst that must be dealt with at all times, and key elements added such as the need to construct support beams while mining to prevent cave-ins, and a seasonal cycle that determines whether or not trees will produce fruit. Many more features are to be added, but there’s enough here already to make survival about much more than throwing together a Creeper-proof fort.



Synergies Mod
Game: Torchlight II
Link: Synergies Mod



This adds a new act to the game, over a hundred monsters, new rare bosses, a new class – the Necromancer – more and tougher monsters and the gear to take them on. There are also endgame raids to add challenge once the world is saved yet again, and more on the way – including two new classes (Paladin and Warlock). It’s the top-ranked Torchlight II mod on Steam Workshop, and easily the most popular. Be aware that it’s still in development, and has a few rough edges.

Civilization Nights
Game: Civilization V
Link: Steam Workshop



While Brave New World has officially given Civ V a big shake up, for many players Nights remains its most popular add-on. It’s a comprehensive upgrade, adding new buildings, wonders, technologies and units, with a heavy focus on policies and making the AI better. The single biggest change is how it calculates happiness, citizens adding cheer simply by existing, but the slow march of war and other miseries detracting from the good times. Annexed a city? Don’t expect too many ticker-tape parades. Yet keeping happiness up is crucial, as it’s also the core of a strong military. This rebalancing completely changes how you play, while the other additions offer plenty of scope for new tactics and even more carefully designed civilisations.

Ultimate Difficulty Mod
Game: Dishonored
Link: TTLG Forums



This makes Dishonored’s enemies more attentive, faster and able to hear a pin drop from the other side of the map. When you get into a fight, it quickly becomes an all-out street war. The biggest change is to Dishonored’s second most abusable ability: the Lean (Blink of course being #1). Corvo can no longer sit behind scenery, lean out into an enemy’s face and be politely ignored. He’s now much more likely to be spotted – especially in ghost runs, where his advantages are now limited to the Outsider’s gifts rather than the Overseers’ continued lack of a local Specsavers.

Hardcore
Game: Deus Ex
Link: ModDB



New augmentations! Altered AI! Randomised inventories! Also a few time-savers: instead of separate keys and multitools for instance, a special keyring has both, while upgrades are used automatically if necessary. Difficulty also changes the balance considerably, from the standard game to ‘Realistic’ mode where you only get nine inventory slots, to ‘Unrealistic’, which makes JC Denton the cyborg killing machine he’s meant to be, but at the cost of facing opponents who warrant it. In this mode he gets double-jumping powers, and automatically gobbles health items when he gets badly wounded. Good luck though, I still got nowhere.
PC Gamer
Dishonored Brigmore Witches 1


There’s little chance Daud and Corvo would ever have been friends. One’s an assassin who killed an empress, the other’s a bodyguard who failed to protect one. Two inherently opposing forces, with blood and Outsider marks on their hands. Put them in a room without bladed weapons though, and they’d find they had a lot in common. Corvo is fighting to redeem himself in the eyes of the city. Daud accepts his damnation, and is just shooting for a little personal redemption. Both men get their chance.

As with the first part of the DLC, The Knife of Dunwall, playing as Daud feels immediately familiar but just slightly different. He has most of Corvo’s powers, plus a few extras such as summoning assassins to take out targets for him, and the ability to call in favours from his underworld contacts. More importantly, he gets a moral flexibility that Corvo lacked. Playing the former Lord Protector, ghosting felt like the ‘right’ approach. Playing Daud, that’s still possible, but helping to feed hungry corpse-rats or deciding “Nah” to a fiddly looking puzzle simply feels more appropriate.



His continued mission is to track down Delilah: a Brigmore Witch who lives down a dangerous river – a Brig over troubled water, if you will. It’s broken down into three missions, one re-using the prison from Dishonored, one set in Dunwall’s garment district during a gang war, and a final one in Delilah’s dilapidated mansion full of shrieking, rose-wrapped witches, living statues and other horrors. All are excellent. The first DLC started strong and then lost steam with a bland second mission, a boring, combat-heavy retread of the Flooded District, and absolutely no payoff. Each part of this finale however has a distinct theme and vibe we haven’t seen before, catering to both combat and stealth approaches, and Daud confirms himself as a more interesting character than Corvo ever was.

As with the main game, much of what’s good about it comes down to the details – the ability to buy Daud a uniform to go undercover in the prison for instance, or an elderly godfather’s reaction to you killing his nurse in front of him. The levels are packed with secrets, documents and general things to discover, and while most of the favours Daud can call on are a little boring, the ability to continue a save or get a ton of points up front means he gets to cut loose from the start.

The one disappointment comes in a cameo by Corvo, in a scene that frustratingly relies on Daud’s chaos level rather than – cough – a certain rather important decision made during Dishonored’s campaign to decide how the story ends. That aside, this DLC sends the game out in style. It’s more of the same, where ‘the same’ refers to quality rather than rehashed content – an honourable end, by even the Outsider’s ambiguous standards.


Expect to pay: £8 / $10
Release: Out now
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Multiplayer: None
Link: www.dishonored.com
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